UC San Diego News Center


Celebrating Freedom through Education

Campus honors Martin Luther King, Jr. at Parade and Day of Service


Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Campus honors Martin Luther King, Jr. at Parade and Day of Service

Nearly 200 UC San Diego volunteers gathered at Howard Pence Elementary School on Sunday to revitalize the school’s garden, paint murals on the playground and much more. The service project, held as part of the campus’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, was organized by Volunteer50 and the Center for Student Involvement to educate students about the impact they can make in the local community. Following the Day of Service, about 500 campus members represented UC San Diego in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, celebrating “Freedom Through Education.”

“This event is a proud tradition for UC San Diego, one that reflects our commitment to public service, community engagement and educational excellence,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, who attended the San Diego County Educators’ Breakfast on Saturday—the kickoff to the weekend’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events. The annual breakfast brings together leaders from more than 25 K-12 schools, colleges, universities and other public and private institutions in San Diego to honor the legacy of Dr. King.

UC San Diego has been involved with the community breakfast and subsequent parade for more than two decades. In 2002, the campus began its Day of Service tradition to encourage giving back in the local community.

Among the campus members participating in the parade were Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan González, the provosts of all six colleges, academic deans, faculty, staff and students. The UC San Diego group cheered and handed out blue and yellow balloons as they marched along the parade route.

For Gregory Demirjian, a third year biology major and president of the Community Outreach Effort at Eleanor Rooevelt College (CORE), the parade was a valuable opportunity to connect with the greater San Diego community.

“Such an event gets participants out of their bubbles, away from their midterms and term papers, and makes them realize that they are citizens who play a role beyond the scope of their college lives,” he said. “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holds great historical importance and serves to remind students why public service, a strong education and fair treatment of your fellow person are absolutely essential in this world.”

The Day of Service project also had a big impact on students—both for UC San Diego undergraduates and Howard Pence Elementary students. Part of the South Bay Union School District, Howard Pence is a “no excuses school,” meaning that the school operates with the belief that all students will have the opportunity to attend the college of their choice one day. In addition to refreshing the campus’s appearance, the Day of Service gave Pence students the chance to meet UC San Diego undergraduates who can help them start picturing themselves as future college students.

“We are extremely grateful to be a part of UC San Diego’s Day of Service event,” said Bob Daily, principal of Howard Pence Elementary School. “We can think of no other event that combines the ideals of education and community service that will enhance our students’ experiences as well as provide future motivation for our students to aspire for higher achievement both educationally and personally.”

The Day of Service volunteers tackled a number of projects. In the water conservation garden, volunteers helped to restore old benches and build new ones, as well as clean up the area. Nearby, another group assembled and painted birdhouses while Pence students decorated stepping stones for the garden that reflected their ideas about peace and justice. Over on the playground, volunteers restored and extended the school’s college-themed murals.

In addition to the beautification projects, this year volunteers held a workshop for Pence students and parents—many of whom come from low-income or disadvantaged families—to learn about pathways to college. They addressed topics such as applications, scholarships, financial aid and student support services.

“Our students are discovering that learning can take place outside of the classroom and their actions can have a significant impact on their community,” said González, who also participated in the service project. “I’m pleased to see thoughtful discussions about service and education, as well as Dr. King’s legacy, taking place this weekend.”

UC San Diego, which has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for public service by Washington Monthly for five consecutive years, provides a number of ways for campus members to get involved with service in the community. Volunteer50 facilitates service projects both on- and off-campus that are open to all students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends. In addition, the Center for Student Involvement, located in Price Center East, provides a one-stop shop for undergraduates looking to get involved with student organizations, campus-wide events and leadership and volunteer opportunities.

To learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and Day of Service, visit